What I Learned This Summer

Our summer was so intensely awesome. But because our trips were back to back to back to back, I haven't had time to process my favorites or consider what I learned or even know what to say when someone asks "how was your summer?" It was like an incredible mural on the side of a building that I saw out the window of a bullet train. Beautiful, but then I blinked and it was gone.

I feel the need to just sit with my thoughts and memories and photos for a day or a week and soak in what happened and what I saw. I need to spend time with the feelings of gratefulness I have for even the opportunity to travel like we did. I've included just a handful of photos here, representing the highlights. Hawaii, Amsterdam, Greece.
This summer we also went camping in the Gorge and enjoyed Portland, went backpacking to a lookout tower near Spokane, and drove all the way to Lake Tahoe, camping with friends in Bandon on the way. I was home for eight days in a six week span. 

It all started with an epic vacation to Hawaii with my seven-year-old in which we spent most of our time hiking, playing in the ocean, and drinking fruit smoothies. Time spent with just one kiddo at a time is really really sweet. We'll remember this trip together forever. Not all the memories are pleasant, of course, but fortunately the happy ones usually rise to the top. My little boy hiked his legs off, not always cheerfully, but we accomplished some serious climbs and saw some fantastic views. Yes, I promised him $$ if he would keep hiking to the top, but we have talked about bribery and rewards carefully and he is aware that I'm not going to pay him every time I want him to do something for me!! He used his money to buy a Lego airplane [we stood eye level with gliders after hiking switchbacks for two miles] and a stuffed dolphin [his favorite show at Sea Life Park Hawaii]. Oahu is gorgeous, all the way around. Our best times were on the North Shore in Haleiwa and in Kailua on the windward coast of the island. The water was so amazingly warm. The pineapple was so incredibly sweet.
I scheduled myself an eight hour layover in Amsterdam on my way to Greece, so I could get out of the airport and experience a little of the city. I figured out how to buy a train ticket, rode it into the center of town, and walked around until I found a place to rent a bike. As you can see, this is what you do in Amsterdam. #wheninrome
I was surprised to see really tiny cars and then to see them driving on the mini-roads built especially for bikes and little cars. This city is definitely unique. There are canals everywhere with houseboats clinging to the canal walls and boats used for transportation throughout the city. There are swarms of people walking and riding bicycles. Around every other corner there are places to eat outdoors and markets with huge displays of cheese and flowers. I took a little ferry across a wider part of the river just to say I did. I ate some street stroopwafel hot off the grill. I loved my time in Amsterdam, even though it was crazy and crowded.

Course, I had to get back to the airport and continue my journey to Athens...where I met other members of the NRI team. We found our rental cars and drove to the area where we would spend the next week working in refugee camps. The following pictures are taken after our volunteer work was finished. I was able to be a tourist for a few days. I took a walking tour of ancient ruins in Athens and then took a ferry to the island of Paros and spent a day there taking in the sights, swimming in the sea, wandering through tiny streets...
See, it's so surreal. Even just remembering back to being in these places, miles around the globe. Incredible. I was there. I experienced and enjoyed, in real life. Unbelievable. I'm so grateful!!

But what did I learn?

I learned that while I LOVE going and doing and seeing new things, I missed harvesting garden tomatoes and mountain biking in my town's backyard and connecting with friends. 
I completely missed several fruit harvests while I was gone and that's really sad. I would like to have frozen corn and peaches and pesto for the winter. Fortunately, my husband was able to preserve a few things, but not nearly enough. There are mountain bike trails nearby that I haven't set foot on yet and now winter is coming! And reconnecting with friends is hard after being away for almost six straight weeks.   

I learned that my kids will have exponentially more fun in a cool place if they have friends to play with.  
We camped in a really awesome cabin with biking trails right outside our door...but we only rode one trail. We would have explored everything way more with friends. We stayed in a yurt with our buddies for two nights and that was the highlight of the trip for my boys. Driving all the way to Tahoe was just a pain for them...why do we have to say goodbye to our friends? Who cares about a beautiful lake? 

I learned that my husband can survive okay on his own for weeks at a time, but it's not his favorite. 
You know how hard it is to stay in touch with a nine hour time difference...and then your wife comes home for three nights and is off again? My husband is a sweet, kind-hearted, generous man and I don't want to take advantage of that. I promised him next summer I won't be away so much. 

I learned that part of the fun of traveling is having time to process the photos and share the stories and not just unpack, repack and head out again [but summer is so short!!]. 
By the time we got to Tahoe, I was so travel weary. I didn't want to take any photos...I knew I'd have a few day's work editing photos from previous trips. I didn't want to build a campfire, or set up the tent, or go on any adventures!! Truly I was burnt out on vacationing. It's hard for me to only schedule one or two trips because....SUMMER!! FREEDOM!!! But I know what it's like to crash and not be having fun anymore. So..... summer. Freedom. We'll spend it wisely, carefully.  

I learned that I do like traveling alone, but many experiences would have been better shared. 
My style of travel is pretty fast and furious. I get overwhelmed easily, but I also crave that adreneline rush of successfully navigating public transportation, finding that food that everyone local raves about, getting photos that tell a story. Then I retreat to a quieter place where I can rest, read a book, watch TV...see what my people on social media thought of my adventures. After awhile, I'm ready to go out and do again. I know I travel well alone, and it's simpler when I have complete control over decisions made, but I found that the paths I took would have been more enjoyable shared with a friend. The right friend. ;) 

We're here now -- back to school, crispier mornings, it's all downhill to Christmas.
And I have a little list of things I want to make/eat/do:

1) I want to replicate the gyros I ate -- with garlicy tzatziki sauce and french fries.
2) I want to make interesting looking food just for fun, like shishkabobs with melon cubes or veggies and cheese.
3) I want to decorate my home with live plants and things that speak to who we are as a family.

Speaking to number three there....quietly....lowercase.... We'll be moving into a larger home next month, transferring our worldly possessions from 900 sq ft plus a shed and basement to 2200 sq ft that includes a giant garage. We're mostly just excited to have more than one toilet! And we're praying, hoping that the kids will be able to make friends with neighbors. Goodbye to the loop trail, hello to the Sage Hills. I'll post photos in October maybe. 
If I've taken first day of school pics by then...